“My name is Atilola, and I am not a thief!”

I believe this is going to be my most honest and vulnerable article ever. It is raw, no-holds-barred, and I will be mentioning names, real names of everyone involved.

It happened when I was in JSS3, I was 10 years old. It was on a Saturday morning in boarding school, Lagos State Model College, Badore. I think it was after our morning cleanups, when we were supposed to be rushing out of the hostel immediately after inspection, to go for breakfast, and then, afternoon prep. I rushed to the box room to change from my white wear to cheque, or maybe to the pick something from my box, which I did not lock. On entering there, I saw Onyinye Ilechukwu rush out, which meant she also went to quickly take something from or put something in her box. Upon locating my box, I encountered a big problem.

 It was locked!

It was my box alright, but it was locked with someone else’s padlock. I wondered why someone would lock my box. Whatever I wanted to pick was really valuable to me, and I felt since it was my box, I had the right to jack the padlock and throw it away. But it wasn’t those black padlocks you could simply jack. It was those side-shifting coloured ones. Anyway, I didn’t give up as the prefects were announcing “5 minutes more, 4 minutes more…”

Someone (I can’t remember who) came to the box room to get something from her own box, and saw me jacking the padlock. I said to the person “Can you imagine? Someone locked my box.” We discussed a bit, she left, and I continued try to jack. Seeing the futility of the situation, I left the hostel like that, as they were going to lock me in.

I got back to the hostel at about 4 or 5 pm, when suddenly people started shouting my name. I was confused. I was not like a superstar. Suddenly, someone dragged me, placed my box, which was now opened on my head. They were saying things like “Thief, Ole, etc.” they paraded me round all the female hostels, pushing me, singing thieves songs popular in boarding school.

There were fingers pointing, sneering jeering, staring, laughing booing, sniggering and snickering. The more I tried to explain that I had not stolen anything, the more they hit and pushed me around. My life was over. Things like this happen to other people, real thieves, not me.

They took me to Mrs Hamzat, the house mistress. I told her I didn’t steal anything. They had found Onyinye Ilechukwu’s ribena and other provisions in my box, locked. The girl who had seen me jacking my box (if only I could remember her name) had told everyone that she saw me jacking someone’s box, and I was trying to steal. I explained the whole thing to the house mistress, who did not believe me. I wondered why no one asked Onyinye how her padlock got to my own box. Would I jack her box, and then use her padlock to lock mine?

That night, Senior Kofo Allison, who was in SSS3, and had repeated a class, and largely seen as an olodo, always trying to feel cool with herself as one of the happening seniors, called me. She started acting like she was on my side. She first of all said I should confess, tell her the truth. I stuck to my story. She said things like I would be disgraced, etc. She said if I said I did it, she would make it go away, it would die down, etc. She did not allow me leave, basically bullied/cajoled me into writing a statement that I stole the items.

I had joined the choir about a month earlier. The next morning, in the dining hall, the choir mistress, who was also the food prefect, Senior Kemi Ogunbiyi came to my table, and whispered to me that I should stand on the table, so they could announce me as a thief in front of the whole school, as was the tradition. It was one thing for me to be labelled a thief in the girls’ hostels, but in front of the whole school? For a crime I didn’t commit? I started begging her saying “Senior Kemi please, senior Kemi please.” She kept insisting that I should stand up. The boys at the table were confused, but were more interested in eating up their food. I just kept begging, as the tears streamed down my face. My life would be over. After a while, she looked at me, and let me be. Needless to say, I was expelled from the choir. Mrs Hamzat (armed with the statement Kofo Allison bullied me to write) said I should bring my mum with me when I was resuming the next term.

Till today, no one ever asked me for my side of the story. I had been publicly labelled thief, so thief, I must be. I explained what really happened to my friends, that Onyinye (whose parents were always bringing her nice provisions) in a haste got to the box room, unlocked her box, but unzipped mine instead, threw her provisions in my own box, locked it, and rushed out. Or how else did her provisions and padlock end up in my box. So yes, I experienced jungle justice, only that I wasn't set on fire.

That Christmas holiday, I carried the heavy weight around. About few days to resumption, I told my mum everything, knowing I couldn’t return to school otherwise. I left out the fact that I had a written confession to the crime.

My mum did not even flinch as I told her about the incident. She just asked one thing. “Did you do it?” to which I responded “No.”

We went back to school the next term, and my mum went to see Mrs Hamzat. I told Mrs Hamzat I did not do it, and she said I was lying. She brought the statement out, and showed my mum. I was heartbroken. I’m sure my mum was confused. Anyway, my mum paid for seven times of all the items I allegedly stole, according to the rules of the school.

The reason I feel my mum believed me is because she never punished me. My mum is one of the strictest parents Nigerian families could ever have. She would beat your life out for every sin committed, and the one you would commit in future. In this case, she never punished me, and has never mentioned the event till date. I actually think she has forgotten about the incident.

When I finished JSS3, I left the school for another school, a day school this time. I never wanted to leave, but my parents basically uprooted me, lol. Ironically, I really liked that school, and I was just about to start my senior years, which was supposed to be the fun years of boarding school.

I saw Onyinye Ilechukwu twice after then. She was a year behind me, and had also left to a day school. For two consecutive years, we met at cowbell mathematics competition, where schools picked their best 2 math students in the senior and junior categories to write the test. She represented her school, and I represented mine. On both occasions, we stayed to talk like real old friends, but I don’t know if she remembered the incident.

Sometime in SSS3, when my mum was out of the country, after school, I took a bus all the way to Lagos State Model College Badore. This time, I was 14 years old, and I had one goal in mind. I looked for Mrs Hamzat, and asked her if she remembered the incident over three years ago. She seemed to remember a bit. Then I started.

“Excuse me ma, I did not steal those items. Senior Kofo Allison forced me to write that statement.”
This time, she was more receptive to me, maybe because I had come a long way to clear my name. She said I should not worry, that it was not a problem.

I asked her to find my statement and tear it up because I don’t want someone coming out in future to publicly declare me a thief because of a crime I did not commit. She said all the records and statements of student crimes had been destroyed, so I shouldn’t bother my head. She asked me to put it all behind, and live my life. She seemed earnest enough, so I believed her, and thanked her.

Even as at then, I knew that in future, I would become well-known in some circles, and I didn’t want this kind of thing coming to stain me.

The sad part is that since I was publicly disgraced in front of all the girls (it was not a small school) there are some people with sharp memories like mine, who would forever remember, statement or no statement.

If in future, any one should come with some false allegations against me, then I would willingly direct them to this post where I stated that…

“My name is Atilola Moronfolu, and I am not a thief!”



49 comments

  1. Awesome post Atilola! I can relate to your post because something similar happened to me and even on a grander scale. Just relax and leave it in the past where it belongs

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    1. Really? If it was on a grander scale, I hope you were not dragged to court.

      It is in the past. It hardly even comes to my mind. I read an article about public shaming on social media, and that's what moved me to write this post. Thanks for your encouraging words.

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  2. Sigh So I'm giving you a huge hug when we see y'hear?

    I went to a boarding school and these types of things happened a lot, thankfully not to me.

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    1. Ha. It must not even happen to you o. It is a terrible terrible experience.

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  3. An experience, I won't wish for my worst enemy...that is if I have one..I never liked boarding schools..more of a reason to dislike them, after reading this.

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    1. Really? I really like boarding schools cos I feel it builds early independence in a child, a trait which I admire. Unfortunately, experiences like this one is one of the disadvantages of boarding schools, especially government-owned ones.

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  4. Mehn that sucks! I've also experienced something similar - wrongly accused of theft - it's still very painful almost a decade later.

    Berry Dakara Blog

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    1. So I am not the only one. I hope yours did not result into public shaming, like mine did.

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  5. I saw myself gradually frowning through the post. It's funny how this is how some people get mixed up and labelled wrongly without a chance to tell their side of the story.

    Thank God for your life dear. That isn't a cool experience at all.

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    1. I can imagine your reaction's progression.This is what happens when you allow ignorant children to play judge, jury, and executioner.

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  6. Writing this post was a very wise idea and anyone who tries to bring this up as ammunition against you in the future will be put to shame.

    Being falsely accused with no way of clearing your name is one of the worst feelings in the world.

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    1. You feel me right? When everywhere you turn, people are using the 'thief eye' to look at you, without even asking you a word.

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    2. I totally agree with N.B. You are very courageous. Its rare

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  7. This broke my heart..So sorry you had to go through this regardless of the age. Indeed you are a wise lady...xx

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    1. Thanks for the kind words o. Yea, really heartbreaking.

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  8. This basically broke my heart. To be so young and labelled a thief by those considerably older who did not even take the time to find out one's side of the story can be soul destroying. I commend you for rising above it and being the first to put it out here before some idiot thinks they are being funny and/or vindictive by raising it. Not to worry tho, I will go to bat for you against any moron that tries that. I am a civil servant...I have nothing but time. Just point me in the direction of the post or blog and let me go to work! Lol. #OkBye

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    1. You see, that's why I like blogsville. We always support one another. I already have a lawyer, just like that, lol. Now doing the shoki dance.

      Cherry, you are just too much jare. Thumbs up.

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  9. Ur story kinda sad alil wrong accusation, but its good you went back to clear urself with Mrs Hamzat & you would have discuss the issue with Onyinye as well.

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    1. I didn't think discussing with Onyinye is a big deal, since she didn't do anything morally wrong. We are even friends on facebook.

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  10. awwwwww I don't know how I would have coped if it was me. I would have probably fainted. Imagine the wahala you went through...sorry. Just a sad terrible experience

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    1. Faint? They will wake you back up, and continue. Mobs are senseless o, that means dem no get brain. Thanks for the kind words.

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  11. Atilola,

    I feel your plight cos I have suffered nearly same thing in my 2nd year in University. At the risk of being beaten up by SUG thugs to confess I agreed to pay huge chunk of money I did not steal (actually I don't think any money was missing).

    Fortunately, a friend of mine was friends with the SUG president who overruled the decision on the understanding that the agreement I signed to pay the money was under duress and threats of bodily harm.

    May God save us all from evil.

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    1. I hope it didn't involve public shaming sha. Yours was corruption in high places, lol. Pele. Amen to your prayer.

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  12. For a girl of 10 this must have been a terrible experience. I had some experience in secondary too SS2, I was publicly shamed not for theft though. Years after I still remembered. I kept meeting the girl after I left school... I had 2 opportunities to help her and I said no. (even though she confessed later, it was too late) I had to pray to God to help with the hurt . I have not seen her in a long while but I hope the next time I do I can be the bigger person and lay it all to rest.

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    1. Hmm. Public shaming actually ruins some people's lives forever. They never get over it. Thank God for us o.

      I thank God you have made your peace with it, and made a contrary decision.

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  13. Wow. That must have been bad. I rem something like this happened to me in 100 level, in Moremi Hall (UNILAG). I felt hot all over from head to toe, being escorted from Hollywood across d stage to A-block; over cash d accuser's sister kept cos her sister is careless. No apology afterwards from her, after she had described d motions I used to steal d money. Apology was from her sis who was a classmate in secondary sch. I wept. And I stopped visiting people's rooms unnecessarily. Have I forgiven her? I hope so, cos I don't really know. But I know I can't forget her face.

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    1. Wow, are you serious? What made the sister apologise? Did they end up finding the money?

      I remember hollywood, lol. Those were the days.

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  14. Thank God dis didnt happen at under-bridge oshodi with tyres and petrol

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    1. Classic case of "May God never allow us to walk on the road the day death is roaming around."

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  15. Oh wow I'm trying to imagine how you must have felt that day. This is how people get killed for a sin they didn't commit. E-hugs dear. Hiya hunnaaaay

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    1. Lol, don't try o, cos it's unimaginable. Thanks for the consolation. *Hugs back*

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  16. This is so sad......kai, at such a tender age. It's nice that you put your version of the story in writing because just as you pointed out, some other students with sharp memories will remember the incident.

    most persons can relate to the story because we have also encountered similar situations in different shades.

    Thank God we are survivors

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    1. Thanks Sykik. I didn't realise that some people I know would have experienced such, until I put this post up. I guess its kinda therapeutic.

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  17. Your post brought tears to my eyes because I have also been in a similar situation. It's so painful to be punished for a crime one didn't commit and worse being unable to defend oneself.

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    1. Hmm. False accusation is bad enough. Add Public shaming, and that's just terrible. Glad we all came out better.

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  18. Hugs dear
    I could feel the hurt right from here
    Nobody should be made to go through this
    I really admire your bravery
    Stay strong, love xo

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    1. Thanks MsJB. Indeed, no one should be made to go through it.

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  19. Part of the things i will teach my kids is to never ever confess to something they did not do,however how scared they are or how threatened they feel.They should stick to the truth even if it hurts.People have gone through very terrible trauma based on issue such as this and it is very sad that people don't stop to reason or investigate matters before concluding.Oya chop hug jare! *hugs*

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    1. Trust me, under duress, people don't think straight, which why confession gotten under duress is usually not admissible in court. It is hard to be rational under such circumstances, except one is been previously mentally prepped, and even then it is still difficult.

      I like the fact that you plan to teach your kids that. It is really important.

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  20. I was accused of stealing in 100L. Luckily for me, it cleared up after a while. The thief was caught. I guess I know how you feel but please let it go

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    1. Really? Thank God you were cleared. Still, false accusation aint cool. Thanks for dropping by

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  21. I had my own share of this kind of experience back in secondary school Jss 3. It was over a casio wrist watch (which was kind of the thing then). The whole experience hurt me back then because the wrist watch was a birthday gift, I knew it was mine like I knew my name, I wasn't taken serious because the other person involved was the daughter of a 'fellow teacher' so I had to be the one who was wrong.

    They tried to do the same thing to me....amke me say the wrist watch wasn't mine and I took someone else own. I refused. And repeatedly gave my reasons why even called some witnesses. They just turned a blind eye.
    I made a similar statement then too to all those involved. I remember saying am not a thief and won't start by stealing a wrist watch. Lol.

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    1. Na wa o. Sorry about that. So were you forced to give her the wrist watch?

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    2. None of us got the watch.
      I cried.
      She had a smug look plastered on.
      Case closed.

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  22. I can't even imagine how hurtful this incidence must have been.. Writing this post is a very wise idea like someone mentioned earlier..
    Also, when you related it to jungle justice, I just imagined how many innocent people have been killed unjustly. It's so sad.

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    1. Yes, that thought occurred to me while I was writing the post. I said it means many people have died for false accusations. May God never let such happen to us.

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  23. Hiya, I saw both incidents. I didn't like the treatment you were given at all. I know one thing: there were seniors that don't leave hostels !!!!!! One of them probably completed the job and tried to cover her or their tracks!
    I was particularly appalled by the decision of kemi at the time to parade on a table in the dinning hall especially when it was something decided via mob justice
    I couldn't do anything at the time and could only observe from afar. But then I am guessing your name was on the locker/ box they put on you! How can it be that a person is accused of jacking their own locker? Unless you didn't have your name on it because it a reclaimed locker...hmm.
    Nevermind, as far as I knew at the time, I just felt ppl had beef towards you and it was an opportunity to strike back especially those seniors! Lool shame! Didn't give a benefit of doubt!
    I personally don't like mob justice as it incites hatred towards someone you don't even know.
    Anyway, you are not a thief!
    Eye witness Jegede

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What's your opinion on this? Let's learn from one another.